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Cash-back apps such as Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) are one of the best kept secrets on the internet. Chances are, you’re already spending money shopping online. But if you’re using a free app like Rakuten, you could be getting money back on your purchases.
While there are a bunch of cash-back apps in 2019, Rakuten remains one of my favorites. It partners with tons of stores to bring you deep discounts and a commission back on your shopping.
Plus, Rakuten is free, easy-to-use, and actually works. Since I added the Rakuten (well, Ebates at the time) browser extension to Chrome a few months ago, I’ve already made back $150.
If you’re curious how Rakuten works, how much cash back you can earn, or what stores are on Rakuten, read on for a full Rakuten review.
Rakuten review: How does Rakuten work?
With money-making scams popping up all over the internet, it’s natural to wonder, Is Rakuten/Ebates a scam? But fortunately, the Rakuten cash back site is legit.
In fact, its business model is pretty simple. Rakuten works on an affiliate commission, meaning stores pay it for referrals. When you activate your Rakuten discount or click through to a store from Rakuten.com, the store considers you to be a Rakuten referral.
If you make a purchase, the store will give a commission to Rakuten. Then Rakuten shares part of that commission with you, the customer, as cash back.
Plus, you can use my link to earn $10 back after creating your account and making your first purchase.
Outside of this welcome bonus, the amount you get back will vary from store to store. As I’m writing this, for instance, Rakuten is offering 5% back at CheapTickets.com and 12% back at Shoes.com (among lots of other deals).
Rakuten sends you your balance every three months as a cash or deposit into a Paypal account. In addition to rebates, Rakuten also collects promo codes from around the internet to offer you extra savings. So you can get a discount on your purchase with one of these coupons as well as cash back for maximum savings.
How to use Rakuten, step by step
So how can you use Rakuten to get rebates on your shopping? You can use it in three ways: via browser extension, the Rakuten website, or the Rakuten mobile app.
1. Add the Rakuten cash back button to your browser
The way I like to use Rakuten is with its cash back button. You add this free extension to your browser, and it notifies you if a store you’re shopping at is offering a deal.
For instance, let’s say I’m loading up on face masks at Sephora. As I’m on the site, the Rakuten button may invite me to activate 8% back.
I just click activate, and Rakuten will automatically add cash back to my balance after I make a purchase. (Sometimes the cash back goes to your balance right away; others time it takes a few days.)
Note that if you’re using an ad blocker, you might need to pause it on that particular site so the Rakuten button can do its thing.
2. Shop via the Rakuten website
If you don’t like the cash back button popping up while you’re shopping, consider heading directly to the Rakuten website instead.
Once there, you can scroll through Rakuten deals or search for a specific store. Once you find it, simply click to head to its website.
Since you clicked through from Rakuten, your cash back rebate should already be activated. But don’t forget to search for a promo code for extra savings.
3. Download the Rakuten mobile app
Prefer to shop on your phone? With the Rakuten mobile app, you can keep the savings going. Download for iOS or Android and search for cash-back deals and discounts through your phone.
Some Rakuten deals are mobile-exclusive, so you might find some promotions you wouldn’t find online. Plus, you can earn cash back on your Lyft rides, so if you’re a frequent Lyft rider, downloading the app could be worth it.
Rakuten now works for in-store cash back, too
Although Rakuten is best known for offering cash back on online shopping, it now has an in-store cash back program, too. You can get money back when you go to a brick-and-mortar store by linking a credit card to your account and then using it in the store.
You’ll need to find an offer, link it to your card, and then make your purchase. Then, the store will notify Rakuten of your purchase, and you’ll get cash added to your account in a few hours or days.
Honestly, this process might not be worth the effort unless it’s a really good deal. But if you love to maximize your savings, check out Rakuten deals for cash back on your in-store shopping.
Pros of using the Rakuten cash-back app
In my experience, these are the main advantages of using Rakuten when you shop online.
- You can get cash back on money you’re already spending with virtually no effort on your end.
- Rakuten partners with tons of stores you probably shop at, including Target, Best Buy, The Container Store, Sephora, American Eagle…the list goes on and on.
- Besides cash back, Rakuten highlights sales and promo codes so you know which stores are having big sales.
- You can get Rakuten cash back on travel sites, which can lead to pretty big savings.
- You can get a bonus cash reward of $25 for referring a customer to Rakuten.
Cons of using Rakuten to earn cash back
Rakuten doesn’t have a ton of cons, apart from my reluctance to adjust to its name change (I keep wanting to type Ebates!). Here are a few potential downsides to consider.
- The Rakuten cash back button, while helpful, can feel a little intrusive if you’re not used to it. If you don’t like this reminder popping up while you’re shopping, use the site instead.
- You can only collect your cash every three months. Some other cash back apps let you redeem your rebates whenever you want.
- It doesn’t partner with everybody, so you might find yourself shopping at a store where you can’t get cash back through Rakuten. In that case, you might consider another cash back app like Ibotta or TopCashBack.
What stores are on the Rakuten cash back site?
So what stores partner with ERakuten to bring you cash back? As of the time of writing, the company partners with more than 2,500 merchants. Some of these include,
- Best Buy
And lots more. Check out the website for more ideas or to search for a specific store.
Rakuten review: Final thoughts
If you’re familiar with Ebates, rest assured that Rakuten works the same way. The main change is the name and color scheme of the website.
Just remember that if you’re looking up Ebates, you’ll now get redirected to the Rakuten site and Rakuten mobile app. But the process for getting cash back reminds the same, even if the branding looks a little different.
It’s still easy to save money online (or even in-store) with the Rakuten app or exclusive Rakuten deals. So if you want an effortless way to get money back on your shopping, create your account today and start saving. Happy shopping!